The EngiNerds Strike Back

S. & S./Aladdin. (MAX). Feb. 2021. 208p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534469341.
Gr 4-6–This third installment picks up immediately after the cliff-hanger ending of Revenge of the EngiNerds, with the gang facing a new peril. Aliens from the planet Plerp have judged humans galactically useless because they are intellectually inferior and neglect the environment. The Plerpians have chosen Earth as the site for a giant billboard, even if it will wipe out all life on the planet. It’s up to Ken and the EngiNerds to prove that Earthlings have redeeming qualities. While the kids are described as “smarter than average, mechanically and technically proficient,” Lerner doesn’t provide readers with even cursory details about any of their engineering projects. As the kids work together on a robot that will save the world, readers learn about all the food the kids eat but only one tool they use: a screwdriver. Despite what the title suggests, the emphasis here is not on STEM but on middle school high jinks and silly humor—the aliens wear collared shirts and ties but no pants. Ken’s dog is named Kitty. No clues are given regarding characters’ ethnicities, and Ken’s father, the sole grown-up in the book, hews to the standard “clueless adult” trope. Short chapters may encourage reluctant readers, but many are only one or two pages, which interrupts the narrative flow and feel structured to create artificial drama.
VERDICT Purchase where the previous two novels are popular.

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